Friday, 10 February 2012

Bursa Malaysia: earning income from fines?

Yesterday, Bursa Malaysia (BM) announced its 2011 results:$FILE/QuarterlyReport-31122011.pdf

The profit was RM 151 million versus RM 116 million the year before. That sounds good, until one realizes that this profit is made from commissions on trades and from listing fees. In other words, all coughed up by market participants, there is no free lunch here.

I have never been a fan of exchanges being privatized into listed companies, and BM is no exception. I think that exchanges should roughly break-even, although a small profit for a rainy day is ok. Also, there is an inherent conflict of interest situation between being a company and being a regulator, which BM is.

I was rather surprised when I read the following:

BM increased the fines hugely, by 154%. I am all in favour of that, both Bursa Malaysia and the Securities Commission have been much too lenient for a very long time. Enforcement has been improved recently, but what is completely missing is any enforcement whatsoever directed at well-know directors, blue chips and/or Government Linked Companies. It is simply non-existent.

But the strange situation is that Bursa Malaysia is booking fines as "other income". I would have guessed that the collected fines would be used for a good purpose like reimbursing investors who have been disadvantaged, funding MSWG or actively encouraging shareholder activism (something that is almost non-existent in Malaysia). By simply keeping the fines, BM is encouraged to hand out more and larger fines, to bolster the bottom line. Surely that can never have been the intention.

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